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A piece of history that's still relevant
Publication Date : 08-01-2013
For how long will January 7 continue to be celebrated in Cambodia as the day of victory over Pol Pot?
The liberation of Phnom Penh has long been seen as the pivotal date among the tumultuous events of 34 years ago.
These include the founding of the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea on December 2, 1978 and the launch of the military offensive by soldiers from the front and Vietnamese troops three weeks later on December 25.
In the first few weeks of 1979, the key dates after Phnom Penh was liberated on January 7 are the founding of the People’s Revolutionary Council of Kampuchea on January 8 and the People’s Republic of Kampuchea on January 15.
Yet January 7 is the date that still resonates among most Cambodians, especially those in Phnom Penh where an entire district is named after it.
After elections in 1993, the date ceased to be an official public holiday amid political differences in the new coalition government.
In some ways, this was an amateurish attempt to rewrite history. Yet perhaps it was too early in Cambodia's political reconcilliation process to expect a coalition government to agree on such recent history.
Notwithstanding the political differences, the Cambodian People's Party was undeterred and continued to commemorate January 7.
And with political reconcilliation now complete, the date has since been reinstated as a public holiday, officially known as Victory Day Over the Genocidal Regime.
Although more than half of the Cambodian population was not even alive 34 years ago, many have parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents who took part in the victory of 1979.
It's reasonable to expect that the significance of January 7 will not start fading until the last of those veterans dies off.
Since some were teenagers at the time, it's not implausible to expect that at least some of these veterans will still be around when the 60th anniversary falls due in 2039.